Behind the Ministry: Aaron Lawrence
Jared Elrod started this great blog series called “Behind the Ministry” to highlight youth workers who are doing some amazing things in their church, youth ministry, and in their communities. If you’d like to share your story in a Behind the Ministry post, email us HERE and we’ll connect you with Jared.
Aaron Lawrence, Youth Pastor, bagcburg.org
Give us a backstory of how you got into youth ministry.
I grew up a Pastor’s kid and always loved watching my parents in ministry. Felt called into ministry when I was 13. Fast forward a few years. I graduated Bible College, became a college recruiter and it was there I felt the desire to become a youth pastor.
What are your strengths as a youth pastor? What do you love most about youth ministry, and what areas do you struggle with/in?
Strengths- Speaking, having fun with games, being creative with set designs, and planning events. Struggles- Worship Team, handing in receipts, sometimes expecting too much from teenagers, documenting events with pictures, and being over competitive…
What are your thoughts on the high turnover in youth ministry?
It’s sad to see, but I can sympathize and understand why turnover is high. Youth Ministry is tough and sometimes it feels like a 90 degree uphill battle. Many times I find it discouraging, but I know that if I stay strong and continue in what God calls me to do I will start seeing greater rewards from my group.
What would you say to a new youth pastor who wants to give up, or is questioning his/her calling?
Don’t let discouragement rob you of the call. You can be a first year pastor or a 60 year pastor. Discouragement is going to come. Find mentors around you who can walk with you through their struggles early on. Find ways to remember the things God spoke to you years ago. Always keep perspective of the students who have been impacted by your leadership.
What are your favorite youth ministry resources?
Where do I begin… downloadyouthministry.com, youthgroupcollective.com, youthdownloads.com, youthmin.org, youthministrymedia.com, averageyouthministry.com, youthleaderstash.com, everyschool.com, youthworks.com, ag.youth.org
If you were starting over today as a youth pastor what would you do?
Find a place to live closer to my church, so that I can be around the teens more. I live far away and traveling back and forth is so tough.
Story time. Share some stories from your time in youth ministry. Good, Bad, or Funny.
Youth Camp last year my group was sitting around a table eating lunch. I have a student who has high blood pressure, but I’m not too skilled on what’s good and bad to eat for people with this issue. While we were eating lunch this student went to go get some soda. I reached over and grabbed their ice cream cup that had a paper seal on top. Opened it up and dumped a couple spoonfuls of salt. The student came back and ate it like nothing was even wrong. I totally forgot to tell him what I did. That night he had to go to the nurse and he was insanely sick. Turns out his blood pressure went up to 180. Maybe a bit higher. I almost killed him… It was funny, but bad. Another bad moment happened just a few weeks ago at Winter Camp. A student of mine broke her ankle during our first night there (while God did break my students spiritually, He also broke them physically). We had a record snowfall in the area we live in. 34 inches in the span of 18 hours. The wheelchair we had for this girl could not get through the snow, so I picked up my student and walked her about a half a mile in my arms. I got to a little hill and slipped. She fell on the ground and I fell right on top of her. I made things worse. That was a bad… but now a funny moment.
What is your philosophy in youth ministry? Explain how you see it, how you work/run your ministry etc.
My view of youth ministry. First, it’s got to be biblical. I’m fully under the mindset that no game or event quite changes a student like solid biblical teaching. We do expository messages geared for youth in my ministry. We’re seeing a lot good things coming from this. Students now are so biblically illiterate, it’s scary! They don’t know context, flow or anything. This is one of the main reasons we’ve gone expository. (I’d be glad to answer more questions about this style if people are upset with this approach in youth). Second, it’s relation from the top down. If our students are going to come back it’s going to be because they feel loved and appreciated by my leaders. We have leaders choose 5 students that they hang out with and text all the time. Third, it’s missional. I wish this was one our students grasped more of, it’s something I highly desire. We cannot be satisfied in youth if we’re here just feeding ourselves. We have got to fulfill the Great Commission. I cannot reach the schools, but my students can. This third point connects to my first point. If these students are going to be missional, they have to understand the biblical mandate given. They have to be the church in the community they reside in.
Give an example of how you operate in your strength. For example, if you are super organized walk us through how you set up your calendar, or whatever you rock at. If you are great at communicating break down your process.
I consider preaching to be a strong point of mine. I take it very seriously. I’m not interested in throwing together a lesson that comes from a website. Every Tuesday afternoon I let everyone on staff know that I’m sermon prepping. I do that until office hours are over. Wednesday morning comes along (day of youth) and I do about 2-3 hours of reworking my formatting, powerpoint presentation, notes for students, and rehearsing. I try to rehearse twice. When I plan my messages I try to go through a book or section of the Bible and let the text speak for itself. Right now we are going through the book of James. Each week I’ll take a new section, dissect it, and then apply it to the teens life. I’ll throw in maybe a few examples from my life or some stories that really pull them in.
Anything you want to say?
Hi mom! Kidding… Youth Ministry is easily the most frustrating, yet most satisfying ministry in my current opinion (opinions may change at a later date). There’s nothing like seeing a student struggle in life and then realize their purpose. Every week I think about giving up, if not everyday, but I know that God’s got me here for a reason.
Jared Elrod is a Youth Pastor, Online Marketer, and part time YouTube video maker. He has been involved in youth ministry full time since 2009, and spends most of his free time studying the latest trends in both youth ministry and Online marketing so he can try out what works best (and what completely flops) then writes about it at Youth Factor.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.